, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 27 – Victims of sexual violence in the 2007/08 post-election chaos on Monday called on the government to publish and disseminate a clear code of conduct that will guide any security operations and deployments during the election period to address cases of sexual violence.
Grace Agenda’s Head Jacqueline Mutere said the government should identify potential hotspots, provide additional safeguards including ample security, lighting and hotline numbers as well as access to emergency medical care and treatment.
“We stand here to remind the government that justice for survivors of sexual violence is still an unfinished business and the longer it takes to address the issue of accountability, the more survivors continue to suffer,” she said.
Mutere stated that the nature of violation is such that a few if any survivors have come out in public about their experiences, causing challenges in prevention, response and protection of survivors and their families.
“Survivors are shamed, judged and shunned. Worse still, survivors of conflict related sexual violence are not regarded as mainstream victims because their scars are not visible.”
“Breaking the stigma on sexual violence starts by dismantling the silence that surrounds it,” noted Mutere.
Sexual violence is undeniably a violation of human rights and has become the single most cruel, steadily growing crime in Kenya.
Victims and their families not only suffer from physical harms but the enduring and devastating effects of emotional and psychological trauma that destabilizes their lives forever. The magnitude of this crime is enormous with its socio-economic consequences threatening to tear families and communities apart, as Gertrude and Lydia both sexual violence victims narrate.
“The physical, psychological and socio-economic harm brought by sexual violence is overwhelming,” said Lydia who together with her sister and seven year-old nephew were raped after seeking refuge at a police station in Trans Nzoia during the 2007/08 post election violence (PEV).
Lydia, a mother of four said the violation has left a trail of physical injuries, gynaecological complications, sexually transmitted diseases, depression and trauma, spousal desertion, community isolation and stigmatization and the list is endless.
Her sentiments were echoed by Gertrude a mother of six, who has been left to fend for her family after her husband, was also incapacitated by the PEV.
“I was raped, my husband was seriously wounded during the PEV. As we speak I am still nursing injuries. I was displaced from my land and so I am an Internally Displaced Person.”
The two women had only one message for Kenyans, “To maintain peace before during and after the August 8 elections, for the campaigns to be free from any form of violence as well as zero-tolerance to sexual violence in the country.”
“Kenyans from all corners of the country should be protected from any form sexual violence that may be committed by civilians or state security agents under the guise of security operations,” explained Gertrude.
Head of Physicians for Human Rights Christine Alai says over 900 cases of sexual violence were reported during the post election violence with no case resulting to a conviction due to lack of evidence.
“It is unfortunate that justice continues to elude survivors of sexual violence. The courts continue to drag their feet in prosecuting and convicting sexual violence offenders even in cases where evidence is available,” noted Alai.
“As we approach elections this matters have to be addressed.”
Only a handful of people have been prosecuted for sexual violence related charges in the PEV with the government repeatedly promising to ensure victims of the violence are compensated.
“Where is the compensation for survivors of sexual violence when IDPs are being compensated? The inordinate delay in delivering reparations to this category of victims’ shows there’s is a policy of neglect from duty bearers.”
“We hereby call upon the government to operationalise the Sh10bn Restorative Justice Fund that will offer a measure of redress to victims’ and survivors of past human rights violations.”
“Further given the silence if this issue we urge the government to ensure victims of sexual violence are not forgotten as they often are in many cases due to stigma, vulnerability and shame,” explained Alai.